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Save on pet care costs w/o cutting quality

October 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
How much is that doggie in the window? According to the ASPCA, it could cost you as much as $14,000 over a pet's 15-year life span, and make that $10,000 for cats.

One of the big expenses can be medical care, but there are ways to save hundreds of dollars without shortchanging your furry friends.

We teamed up with Consumer Reports to find some ways to keep you from spending more than you have to.

When Candy Fisher's dog, Chrissy, was attacked by a pit bull two years ago, she spared no expense getting her the best medical treatment at her vet.

"I don't even think about these things. I take her all the time, because I want to be sure that she's taken care of," said Fisher.

Fisher's not alone. Even during this recession, spending on pets grew to $48 billion last year. But Consumer Reports finds there are plenty of ways to tame your pet costs and still get good care.

First, do comparison shopping for veterinary care. A good benchmark is how much a vet charges for a physical exam.

"You probably won't find huge differences in the costs, but this could be a good indicator of other costs, such as major procedures that can add up to a lot of money," said Greg Daugherty of Consumer Reports.

Also, if your pet needs any medication, don't automatically buy the meds from the vet. Vets typically charge at least 100 percent more than wholesale and sometimes even more than that.

"Some medicines have an even bigger markup, like a whopping 1,000 percent markup on the antibiotic amoxicillin," said Daugherty.

If your pet is taking a medicine that's also prescribed for humans, check into filling the prescription at your pharmacy. You may be able to save a lot of money.

Also consider new money-saving options for flea and tick control treatments. Some highly effective ones are now available since the patent expired on a key ingredient in Frontline Plus.

A three-month supply of Walmart's PetArmor Plus costs $28, less than half of what Frontline Plus goes for.

As for pet insurance, Consumer Reports said it's rarely worth the expense. In its latest comparison of pet insurance policies, Consumer Reports found that only in the most uncommon cases - when medical bills reached the high four figures - did it pay to have pet insurance.

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